“Love is Enough” For One Family Affected by ASI Child Care Center Closurecsudhbulletin September 26, 2020 0 COMMENTS
CSUDH senior and single mom, Kathleen Voyles, and daughter Rylee. Photo courtesy of Kathleen Voyles.
By Melanie Gerner, Staff Reporter
Each morning before sunrise she pulls herself out of bed and drags her exhausted body into the kitchen to make coffee.
After a brief commute to her makeshift workspace in the living room of the two-bedroom apartment, she sets her laptop on a TV tray and perches on the edge of the couch.
So begins the race to complete as much school work as possible in a two-hour time frame. Kathleen Voyles is a student-parent and a single mom. Her 4-year-old daughter, Rylee, sleeps until 7 a.m. The dark hours of the morning are the only time when Rylee can’t sprawl across her mother’s lap while she’s trying to “do the reading” or complete an online exam.
There was no way for Voyles to know that her senior year as an advertising and public relations major at CSUDH would look like this.
Last year, before COVID-19, you could find Voyles and her then 3-year-old daughter on campus Monday through Friday. Kathleen was in classes or studying, while her daughter spent her days in preschool, with Miss Ashley and Teacher Alma at the Associated Students Incorporated Child Center.
Every other week the two would share a meal together on campus.
“Rylee would say, ‘I go to the same school as you Mommy’ and ‘We are eating at our school together,’”Voyles said. “That was something that was really fun for us.”
When CSUDH stopped in-person classes, the child care center and shared lunches on campus stopped too.
According to ASI Executive Director Rasheedah Shakoor, when the center closed for in-person services the second week of March, no one thought the closure would last long, and almost all of the families continued to attend via Zoom.
“At the time the pandemic was happening, no one thought that it was going to last as long as it did, maybe just a couple of weeks,” Shakoor said. “Our teachers continued to provide Zoom instruction and that continued all the way up until July.”
During the summer, then 3-year-old, Rylee was promoted from a dandelion to a sunflower in her weekly Zoom preschool class provided by the center. But every meeting was a struggle to keep Rylee engaged.
“Getting a 3-year-old to do a Zoom class is pretty challenging,” Voyles said. “Going from her first year in a classroom to trying to do Zoom once a week was hard.”
When the center sent out a survey asking parents if they would return, Voyles decided she and her little one would. She said she trusts the staff and the program the center provides, and the small class sizes helped put her COVID-19 fears at ease.
“I’m just worried about her social development. I think this is a key time when social development is important.” Voyles said. “Being in lockdown with mommy for almost six months, it’s hard on me but I am sure it is hard on her too.”
Last year Voyles earned a scholarship from the communications department and this year she continues to work toward completing her degree, even if she has very little time to study without the living soundtrack of a 4-year-old dynamo of energy underscoring everything.
Her professors express admiration for her work ethic and enthusiasm.
“It’s clearly apparent that her [Voyles] commitment to her education is unquestionable,” Chris Russo, a communications professor said. “She doesn’t miss class meetings, assignments, or discussions. She’s always on time and ready to learn, and I deeply appreciate the dedication and focus she puts into every aspect of the courses.”
During the fall semester Voyles has attended her remote classes via Zoom and often Rylee will appear on her lap during lectures. Sometimes Rylee will even try to floss professor Russo’s teeth or feed him a potato chip.
“I think it’s really cool having Rylee pop in once in a while,” Russo said. “She’s an honorary Toro. Sometimes Rylee will check in with the class on important topics like unicorns or ice cream or rainbows.”
“It provides a nice timeout for us on occasion, not only from the subject matter of the course, but also from the heaviness so many of us are carrying these days. It’s a moment where we can all smile at the hopefulness and innocence of a child, and it only takes a few seconds.”
Voyles would like nothing better than the ASI Child Center to reopen. So would the ASI. But after first hoping that would happen this semester and then hoping for the spring, the ASI’s Shakoor said there is no set date to reopen.
“We were hoping again as we closed for the fall, that maybe we will open in the spring,” Shakoor said. “Now we have to go back to the drawing board and figure out [if we are remote for spring] what can we do?”
One thing ASI is offering families is an opportunity to apply for funds to help pay for child care at accredited facilities. The center is in its third year of a four-year Child Care Access Means Parents In School grant that provides funds for childcare to Pell eligible students.
These funds are in addition to ASI and state funding.
“We do have funds available to help pay for childcare for our student parents if they are at an accredited facility,” Shakoor said. “We can pay for that childcare for them while they are in school.”
To apply for these funds, eligible students should contact ASI Accounting Manager, Donisha Quiller or call the ASI office at (310) 243-3686.
For the mother daughter tandem of the Voyles, child care, or the lack thereof, is a real issue.
Voyles said she is considering federally funded Head Start programs or creating a learning pod with one other family she met through story time at the library.
Rylee has a wish list of things she and her mom will do together “when the sickness is over.”
These days, when air quality permits, the Voyles enjoy 3-mile walks outside. When inside their home, the mother-daughter duo enjoy arts and crafts and science projects together.
And, yes, there is frustration, uncertainty and the seemingly endless timeline of life in lockdown.
But Voyles knows nothing can cloud her perspective on what truly matters:
“Now at the end of the day, as long as we still love each other, that is enough.”